Rodrigo de Bastidas was the first European to sail along the coast of Colombia (1500-01).
He sailed along the Caribbean coast from the Cape of La Vela to Point Manzanilla in what is now Panama. The Spanish were at first drawn to Peru and the wealth of the Aztec Empire. Francisco Pizarro ventured south along the Pacific coast (1525). Bastidas founded Santa Marta along the on the northern (Caribbean) coast (1525), the first step in the actual conquest of Colombia itself. Pedro de Heredia founded Cartagena (1533). It became one of the most important naval bases in the Spanish Empire. Cartagena was the first of the fortified ports built along the Spanish Main. The Spanish Main developed as a string of trading ports running north from Caetagena through Central America to the Caribbean. These ports were designed to safely transporting the riches of Spain's new South American colonies back to Spain. Soon Colombian emeralds, Peruvian gold, and Bolivian silver would flow through Cartagena and the other ports of the Spanish Main. Gonzalo Jim�nez de Quesada moved into Colombia's Andean interior and founded Bogot� (1538) followed by several other interior cities as well as strong points secureing routes to the coast. The Spanish completed the conquest (mid-16th century).
Archaeologists today believe that the first people reached Colombia about 20,000 years ago. This is earlier than had been believed for many years. Colombia has been called the Gateway to South America. This is because all of Native Americans in South America must have passed through Colombia, including populations in the Guinas and an Amazonin Basin. Some scholars speculte that migrants may have moved south along the Pacific coast by boat. This almost cerainly occurred as part of the movemnent out of Beringia a melenia earlier. Whether this occured along he coast of South America is speculative. We do note that coastal Peruvian civilizations have sea fareing founation myths. It is likely, however, that if this did occur, they would have moved in short steps--long voyages enitely avoiding the Colombian coast seems unlikely, but the patterns of migrations are not well understood.
The two major Native America cultural groups in northwestern South America were the Chibcha and the Carib. The most sophistivated became the Andean civilizations. . They dominated the highland basins and valleys of the Cordillera Oriental in what is now Colombia (about 6,000 BC). Settlers in the Magdalena Valley in the western Sierra developed into the Chibcha civilization. The Chibcha became the advanced culture and dominant power in Colombia (about 700 AD) and dominated the northern Andes at the time the Spanosh arrived. The Chibcha are less well known than the Inca, Maya, and Aztecs, but were an important culture. The Chibcha inhabited the Andean valleys around Bogot� and Tunja in central Colombia. The population has been estimated at 0.5 million people. They are believed to have been one of the most politically centralized of the Native Americans, with the exception of the highly centralized Inca Empire. Over time the process of war and alliances had unified the Chibcha into two major states and several smaller ones ones, each with its own hereditary chief. The Inca Empire was a much larger state, but a a result of rapid expansion not as coherent a state as the Chincha. The Chibcha like other Native Americans were a stone-age people, but a highly developed one. The economy was based on intensive highland agriculture. There were crafts, most notably gold working. They were also a trading society. The larger villages held weekly markets where aricultural produce, pottery, and cloth were traded. Gold was used for personal ornamentation and religious offrings. .
The arrival of the Spanish cut short the further development and centralization of the Chibcha. The Spanish crushed the Chibcha militarily and by the 18th century the Chibcha language disappeared. There were many other more primitive tribes along the Caribbean and Pacific coasts and in the Amazonian basin east of the Andes. These people were different Carib tribes.
Rodrigo de Bastidas was the first European to sail along the coast of Colombia (1500-01).
He sailed along the Caribbean coast from the Cape of La Vela to Point Manzanilla in what is now Panama.
A settlement on the Cribbean coast of the Gulf of Uraba (1510) but was abandoned after a few years.
The Spanish were at first drawn south to Peru and the wealth of the Aztec Empire. Francisco Pizarro ventured south along the Pacific coast on his way to conquering Peru (1525). The first permanent Spanish settlements were founded along the Caribbean coast. Bastidas founded Santa Marta along the northern (Caribbean) coast to the north of the mouth of the Magdalena (1525). This was the first step in the actual conquest of Colombia itself. The Magdalena is Colombia's major river and the route into the interior. Pedro de Heredia founded Cartagena (1533). It became one of the most important naval bases in the Spanish Empire.
Soon Colombian emeralds, Peruvian gold, and Bolivian silver would flow through Cartagena and the other ports of the Spanish Main. Gonzalo Jim�nez de Quesada moved into Colombia's Andean interior and founded Bogot� (1538) followed by several other interior cities as well as strong points secureing routes to the coast. The Spanish completed the conquest (mid-16th century. spaniards gradually moved northward from Peru and reached southern Colombia, founding Pasto and Popayan.
Cartagena was the first of the major fortified ports built along what came to be called the Spanish Main. The Spanish Main developed as a string of trading ports running north from Caetagena through Central America to the Caribbean. These ports were designed to safely transpor the riches of Spain's new South American colonies back to the mother country. Because of the dangers of piracy, both actual pirates and statecsposored pirating (Dutch, English, and French), Spain began transporting treasure in large escorted convoys. Over the course of a year, dur-ing the 16th and 17th Century, Spanish authorities would stock pile the gold, silver and jewels captured from the Incas and other native civilisations and subsequently produced in Spanish operated mines for transport to one or other of the "Main" ports. Here the valuables would be stored, then loaded on to ships for an annual flotilla to Spain. Getting the treasure back to Spain was no easy task, The treasure flotilla had to run the gauntlet of badly charted reefs, attacks from the English, French and various strong pirate fleets. Cartagena along the Caribbean coast became one of the most forti-fied ports in the world. Spanish military engineers blocked off many of the approach channels to Cartagena. This meant that the sole approach was through a narrow channel secured by a network of securely protected and heavily armed fortresses. The channel was blocked by large chains that were laid between fortresses protecting the entrance to Cartagena Bay. The chains were secured when Cartagena was threatened. The chains were lowered to allow friendly vessels in and out. The Spanish even moored heavily armed galleons to these chains.
As in the rest of South America, the coming of the Soanish resulted in a population implosion. Mistreatment and exploitation of the native population and exposure to European diseases proved devestating. Spanish settlements, however, grew and expanded (17th century). The economy of Colombia during the Spanish colonial era was assisted by gold, silver, and emeralds. Gradually the population began to grow, although at levels far below pre-conquest levels. Spanish conquistadores and subsequet settlers established large agrcultural estates. Native Americans were used as serfs for forced labor. Africans were imported as slaves for forced labor in coastl areas.
Spanish administration of its American empire varied over time with changes in the boundaries of the various colonies. Spanish authorities established the Viceroyalty of Nueva Granada (1740). It included modern Panama, Venezuela, and Ecuador. (Ecuador earlier had been administered as part of Peru.)
The Spanish estimated the population at about 0.8 million people. (This was substantially less than the pre-conquest population.) Some estimates suggest that the population grew to about 1.0 million people in the early 19th century or about the time of the struggle for independence. .
With the Napoleonic Wars (1798-1815) in Europe, Spain was devestated and a weakened Spain gradually lost control of most of its overseas empire. The independence movement began (1811). It proived to be a protracted struggle. Simon Bol�var, the Liberator of northern South America, decisively defeated the royalist army at Pichincha near Quito (1822). It is perhaps the important battle fought at the highest alditude.
Bol�var attempted to united Ecuador with Colombia and Venezuela to create Gran Colombia. This was the territory of the Spanish Vce Royalty of Nueva Granada. His vision was a united South America similar to the United States governed as a constitutional republic. Greater Colombia declared independence (1819). Fighting was still going on in the south where e Royalists were stroinger (Peru). Gran Colombia after a decade disolved (1830). Parochial interests proved too powerful and Ecuador seceded from Gran Colombia (1830). Venezuela soon seceded as well.Ecuador managed to obtain control over the Galapagos Islands (1832).
With the disolution of Gran Colombi, Colombia and Panama became the Republic of New Granada. Even within the much-reducced borders, Gran Colombia was wracked with severe political and economic rivarlries. The result was prolonged domestic instablility which flared up into intermittent civil wars and authoritarian dictatorships. Colombians attempted to resolve the deep-seated regional differences andconflicts. A new Constitution was approved (1863). It turned the country into a federation of nine states and renamed the country the United States of Colombia. Regional conflicts continued. A new approach was taken in another Constitution (1886). It abolished the Federation and divided Colombia into departments with a degree of local authonomy. The dynamic of regional and social conflict continued into the 20th century.
Panama backed by the United States withdrew from Colombia and declared its independence (1903)..
Panama was part of Colombia. When the Colombian Senate dithered on a Canal Treaty with the United States, President Roosevelt used the U.S. Navy to prevent the country from supressing a revolt in Panama (1903). The new Panamanian Government signed the treaty President Roosevelt wanted and America proceeded to build the Canal. The whole affair soured Colombian relations with the United States, generating a great deal of anti-American feeling. Colombia was strictly neutral throughout the War. The American declaration of War on Germany only confirmed Colombian neutrality. Colombian diplomacy continued to be largely determined by the anti-American orientation resulting from the Canal affair.
Colombia had small numbers of residents from Axis countries. The German population had developed over tume and was of some ecomomic significancee, especially in air transport. About 4,000 Germans lived in Colombia. Given the proximity to the Panama Canal, this was of some concern to the Americans. There were also Itlalians living in Colombia, but we are unsure about the numbers. They mostly cane from from Veneto and Tuscany, quite different than the American pattern. Unlike the Grrmans, they were not involved in keyh economic sectors. The were engaged in commerce and restaurants/hotels, but a few had large farm holdings. Japanese immigration began, mostly farmers (1920s). There was a small farming community in Cauca Deoartmernt--sourhwestern Colombia. Colombians as was the case throughout Latin America were unaware of NAZI racial doctrine other than hatred of Jews. There was no public knowledge of how the NAZIs mixed race populations such as mestizos. We suspect tht the German residents were aware of this, but not the Colombians. At the outbreak of World War II, Colombia's Scadta Airline althoiugh controlled by PanAm had been German employees. All of its pilots were Germans, some with reserve commissions in the Lufwaffe. It flew routes that were uncomfortably close to the Panama Canal for the United States. And it had modern photographic survey facilities. The American Panair airlines controlled by Panam had a small interest. The State Department pressed Panair and the Colombian Governent on this. As a result Panair took control. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Colombia broke diplomatic relations with not only Japan, but the other Axis powers as well, but did not declare war as many other Latin American countries did. Military cooperation with the United States began before America entered the War. Colombia had been receiving air and naval support from Switzerland and Britain. As war approached in Europe, the cost and obsolence of Swiss aid concerns with Britain caused Colombian officials to look to the United States (1939). [Leonard and Bratzel] An American naval and military aviation missions arrived in Colombia (January 1939) There were also diplomatic consulations over the Canal. With the Fall, both countries saw the need for closer cooperation. The concept of Inter-American collective security was established at the Second Meeting of Foreign Ministers in Havana Cuba (July 1940). American and Colombian officilas began hammering out an agreement (September 1940). This involved access to military facilities and the exchange of technical advisers, cooperation on coastal patrols, and the aerial photographing of strategic areas within Colombia. Colombian was sensative to American involvement, thus unlike several other Latin American countrues, there were no American military constructiin projects in Colombua. Colombia participated in the American Lend-Lease program.
Colombia since the end of World War II has been racked by "La Violencia" (The Violence). It has been a prolonged era of civil conflict which began as struhhle between Colombia's two main political parties--the Liberal Party and the Conservative Party. The conflict begn in 1948 with the assassination of Jorge Eli�cer Gait�n. Large scale riots broke out in the capital, Bogota, and lesser disturbances in other cities. The resulting partisan conflict caused the deats of 0.2-0.3 million Colombians over the following decade. Elements of the Liberal Party and the Communist Party organized "self-defense" militia groups. Elements in the Conservative party did the same. Hit squads targeted leaders and their supporters. Conservative groups in particular targetted labor leaders. The different militias fought with the Colombian army and with each other with civilians often caught in between. General Gustavo Rojas Pinilla became president and declared an amnesty (1953). Many of the guerillas and militias accepted the amnnesty. Some did not and the viloence continued at a lower level. Rojas fell from power (1958). Civilian rule was finally restored (1958). Moderate Conservatives and Liberals, with the support of part of the military supported a bipartisan coalition--the National Front. The compromise reached was a system of where presidents alternated and the two parties sharied cabinet posts and important public offices.
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